The Public Library by
Publication Date: 2014-04-08
Many of us have vivid recollections of childhood visits to the public library: the unmistakable, slightly musty scent, the excitement of checking out a stack of newly-discovered books. Today's libraries also function as de facto community centers, and offer free access to the Internet, job-hunting assistance, or a warm place to take shelter along with the endless possibilities that spark your imagination the moment you open the cover of a book. There are more than 17,000 public libraries in America. Over the last eighteen years, photographer Robert Dawson has traveled the nation, documenting hundreds of these institutions, from Alaska to Florida, New England to the West Coast. The Public Library presents a wide selection of Dawson's photographs, revealing a vibrant, essential, yet seriously threatened system. Essays, letters, and poetry by a collection of America's most celebrated writers -- including E. B. White, Isaac Asimov, Anne Lamott, Amy Tan, Charles Simic, Dr. Seuss, and Philip Levine, as well as the voices of dedicated librarians working today -- are woven with photographs of the majestic reading room at the New York Public Library; the one-room Tulare County Free Library built by former slaves, in Allensworth, California; the architectural wonder of Seattle's glass and steel Central Library; and the Berkeley, California tool lending library; among many others. A foreword by Bill Moyers and an afterword by Ann Patchett bookend this important survey of a treasured American institution.